Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) had already registered his displeasure during the sprint itself, raising an arm in protest to highlight that he felt he was being hemmed in against the barriers by the Degenkolb. As the German freewheeled back towards the podium area after the finish, Bouhanni broke away from the small group of reporters gathered around him to air his grievance more clearly.
Degenkolb halted briefly and even before Bouhanni could really begin his argument, he stated the case for the defence. “I was on the right and I stayed on the right,” he said, before moving on once again through the throng.
For Degenkolb, the spoils. For Bouhanni, only frustration, as the race commissaires rebuffed the complaint lodged by the FDJ.fr team on his behalf. After a cursory viewing of a replay of the sprint, the jury quickly deemed that the result would stand, and when Degenkolb sat down for his winner’s press conference, he reiterated what he had told Bouhanni outside on the curb of the Avenida Málaga.
"There wasn't any space there, I kept my line, if he wanted to do something he should have come round to the left," said Degenkolb.
Indeed, when Degenkolb opened his sprint, he allowed just enough of a gap between himself and the barriers that it tempted Bouhanni into trying to come around him on the inside. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, however, the enthusiasm of the local fans leaning over the barriers meant that space in this lane was severely restricted, and his progress was interrupted inside the final 100 metres.
"I haven't seen the sprint again, so I can't really say," Degenkolb said. "I tried to stay on the right side and on the barrier, so nobody could overtake me on the right side. Nacer tried to overtake me there but there was no space. I didn't do anything wrong, I just tried to stay on the right."
The clash between Degenkolb and Bouhanni was just the final act of another heated instalment of the Vuelta's extended run in Andalusia. Once again, the backdrop was of scorched esparto grass and broiling temperatures were the order of the day, and there was a surprising ad lib when Tinkoff-Saxo split the peloton in crosswinds with 38 kilometres remaining.
Degenkolb paid tribute to his Giant-Shimano teammates for marshalling him into the front group and then guiding him through a sinuous finale in Ronda. "Today was a very tough one, we had to work really hard for it," he said.
"The guys did a really good job. In the end, I had to go very early, so it was a hard sprint, but it was just great to get another victory."
Degenkolb's second victory in as many days tightens his grip on the green jersey but having won five stages but finished only fourth in the category in 2012, he insisted that winning the points classification was not a goal.
"I tried it two years when I won five stages, but I couldn't do it," he explained. "It's a very hard competition to win here, because points are the same in the mountain stages as on the flat. There's no balance between sprinters and climbers, so there's not really a chance to win."
After an extended stay at nearby Sierra Nevada earlier in the year, Degenkolb also ruled out the prospect of claiming a hat-trick of stage wins at La Zubia on Thursday afternoon.
"No, there won't be a victory for me tomorrow," he said. "I know the terrain, and I've trained a lot near La Zubia and my soigneur lives in Granada, so I know the stage ia very hard one. It's a finish for someone like [Joaquim] Rodriguez, [Nairo] Quintana or [Alberto] Contador."
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